ON THE PITCH
Soccer Recap: Dynamo outmuscle Zlatan’s LA Galaxy, El Clasico ends in 2-2 draw
With 37 days left until the 2018 FIFA World Cup, European club action inches closer to the end of the season. On this side of the pond, the action begins to heat up in Major League Soccer during the regular season and in playoff action in Liga MX.
Here is the week that was in soccer:
UEFA Champions League
The final is set for the 2017/18 edition of the UEFA Champions League.
Spanish powerhouse Real Madrid - the winningest club in the history of the competition with 12 titles - return to the final looking for their third consecutive Champions League trophy. In the knockout stage of this tournament, Madrid has eliminated the league leaders in France (PSG), Italy (Juventus) and now Germany (Bayern Munich). Bayern’s Joshua Kimmich opened the scoring in the second leg - as he did in the first leg the previous week - to give the Bavarians hope. A double by Real forward Karim Benzema, one goal being a major gaffe by the goalkeeper, was exactly what Los Blancos needed to see out a result and win the series. James Rodriguez - a Madrid player on loan to Bayern - scored the tying goal for the Germans in the 2-2 draw at the Bernabeu.
In the other series, Liverpool were able to see out the second leg in Rome to advance to their first Champions League final since 2007. Needing at least three goals, Roma delivered the offense they needed but it’s the two goals allowed on defense that see them eliminated.
Final: Saturday, May 26 in Kiev, Ukraine
UEFA Europa League
Atletico Madrid and Marseille booked their spots in the Europa League final after winning their semifinal series. The Madrid club eliminated Arsenal to deny them an opportunity at the coveted Champions League spot. Atleti carried their 1-1 first leg draw to a 1-0 win in the second leg. The other tie was more wide open as extra time was needed after teams drew 2-2 over 180 minutes. Rolando’s goal in the 116th minute of the second leg gave Marseille the score they needed to reach the final in Lyon.
Final: Wednesday, May 16 in Lyon, France
Former Houston Dynamo Geoff Cameron may have to find a new club next season as Stoke City become the first Premier League side to be relegated this season. A 2-1 loss at home to Crystal Palace was the nail in the coffin to a forgettable season for the Potters. West Bromwich Albion, on the other hand, bought themselves some time as they stave off relegation - for the moment - with a 1-nil upset over Tottenham. Swansea City is third from the bottom after a 1-nil loss to Bournemouth while Southampton barely squeaks out of the relegation zone with a 1-1 draw at Everton.
At the top of the table, it is confirmed that the top seven have secured European action next season. What is yet to be confirmed Burnley (#7) and Arsenal (#6) will play in the Europa League while Liverpool (#3), Tottenham (#4) and Chelsea (#5) continue to fight it out for the two remaining Champions League spots. Should Liverpool win the Champions League final, all three sides would see Champions League action next season but that won’t be known after the Premier League season has concluded. In the meantime, Chelsea picked up three points with a 1-0 win over Liverpool.
Top 5: Manchester City* (94), Manchester United (77), Liverpool (72), Tottenham (71), Chelsea (69)
While this may have been the Clasico with the lowest stakes in recent memory - being that Barcelona have clinched the league title - it still delivered the chipiness and rugged nature of the biggest rivalry in soccer. Barça played the second half with 10-men as Sergi Roberto was red carded in first half stoppage time. Luis Suarez and Lionel Messi traded goals with Cristiano Ronaldo and Gareth Bale to deliver a 2-2 affair, keeping Barcelona undefeated with three matches left to play.
The top four sides have clinched Champions League action next season with Real Betis, the current fifth place team, securing European competition as well. Betis’ goal is to stave off sixth place Villareal (two points behind) to finish in fifth and hope for a Real Madrid win in the Champions League final to assure them a spot in Europe’s premier club competition. Betis did themselves no favors by losing 2-0 at Bilbao. Villareal won 1-0 over Valencia to give themselves a shot at the Champions in case of a Madrid win in the final.
Top 5: FC Barcelona* (87), Atletico Madrid (75), Real Madrid (72), Valencia (67), Real Betis (59)
Hamburg is in trouble as a 3-0 loss to Eintracht locks them in to the relegation zone. While not officially relegated, Hamburg will at best have to participate in the relegation playoffs. Wolfsburg and Freiburg, the next two teams from the bottom to the top, also lost this weekend. After being eliminated from the Champions League, Bayern Munich went back to winning in the Bundesliga with a 3-1 win over last place Cologne. Dortmund and Hoffenheim, the third and fourth placed teams in the table, lost while Bayer Leverkusen fought to a scoreless draw with Werder Bremen. The top two have secured Champions League next season while Dortmund, Hoffenheim and Bayer fight for the remaining two UCL spots.
Top 5: FC Bayern Munich* (84), Schalke 04 (60), Dortmund (55), Hoffenheim (52), Bayer Leverkusen (52)
Juventus won 3-1 over Bologna on Saturday to set themselves up for another Serie A title with a Napoli loss on Sunday. Napoli were able to avoid that heartbreak with a 2-2 draw against Torino. Being that a league title may be inevitable, Juventus must set the league aside for a moment as they face A.C. Milan in the cup final on Wednesday. This could mean that Juve may have clinched the double by the end of the week as they only need one point in league play next weekend.
Hellas Verona was the second team confirmed to be relegated to Serie B after a 4-1 loss at Milan. Inter secured at least a Europa League spot for next season with a 4-0 win at Udinese as they continue to push for the Champions League.
Top 5: Juventus (91), Napoli (85), Roma (73), Lazio (71), Inter Milan (69)
Paris Saint-Germain are just going through the motions, having already clinched the league and looking towards the cup final on Tuesday, as they draw 2-2 at 13th place Amiens SC. Lyon picked up a 3-0 win over Troyes, Monaco won 2-0 at Caen and Europa League finalist Marseille picked up three points in a 2-1 win over Nice. Rennes picked up a big win, 2-1 over Strasbourg, to jump back into fifth place.
Top 5: Paris Saint-Germain* (92), Lyon (75), Monaco (74), Marseille (73), Rennes (54)
Major League Soccer
Week 10 in MLS meant a trip to the top of the table for the surging Atlanta United as they picked up a 2-1 win at the Chicago Fire. NYCFC dropped to second in the East after a humiliating 4-0 loss in the Hudson River Derby, the rivalry match between the two New York area clubs. Orlando City picked up a franchise-record sixth straight win after a 3-1 dismantling of Real Salt Lake while the Crew and Revolution earned a draw and loss respectively.
In the West, Kansas City and LAFC remain at the the top with home results. The Houston Dynamo picked up another home win in front of a sold out BBVA Compass Stadium crowd of 22,320. Homegrown midfielder Memo Rodriguez scored in the 90th minute to deliver the 3-2 win over a star-studded LA Galaxy side that featured Zlatan Ibrahimovic and Mexico national team players Giovani and Jonathan dos Santos. The Dynamo travel to Vancouver for a Friday showdown with the Whitecaps team that will be looking to rebound from a 1-0 loss at Minnesota.
East Top 6: Atlanta United (22), NYCFC (20), Orlando City (19), NY Red Bulls (15), Columbus Crew SC (15), New England Revolution (14)
West Top 6: Sporting KC (20), LAFC (16), Vancouver Whitecaps FC (13), FC Dallas (13), Minnesota United FC (12), Houston Dynamo (11)
The field of eight was cut down to four after home-and-home series in the Liga MX quarterfinals. Last year’s finalists Tigres and Monterrey were both eliminated, meaning the final will also present the two other teams that will qualify to the CONCACAF Champions League. Club America dismantled Mexico City rival Pumas, 4-1 at their place and then 2-1 at home. Tijuana and Monterrey tied 1-1 in the first leg before the ‘Xolos’ delivered a 2-1 win on the road. Tigres earned a 2-0 home win over Santos but suffered the opposite faith in the second leg. The defending champions were eliminated on the 2-2 aggregate due to the tiebreaker that favors the higher seeded team to advance. The same tiebreaker came into play in the Toluca-Monarcas series as that tie ended 4-4 on aggregate.
Semifinal matchups: (1) Toluca vs. (6) Tijuana, (2) Club America vs. (4) Santos Laguna
National Women’s Soccer League
This week in the NWSL there was a shift with the top four spots in the standings - the qualifying spots for the playoffs. North Carolina remained at the top with a 1-1 draw on Sunday against Chicago. Seattle Reign moved to second with a 3-2 win at rival Portland Thorns. The Utah Royals picked up their first win in a 2-0 home win over the Washington Spirit while the Houston Dash also picked up their first win - and first under Head Coach Vera Pauw - with a 3-2 win at Sky Blue FC in New Jersey.
Top 4: North Carolina Courage (17), Seattle Reign (10), Chicago Red Stars (10), Portland Thorns (8)
Liga MX Femenil
The first year of top women’s soccer league in Mexico ended in a historic final between Monterrey clubs Tigres and Rayadas. As it happened last December between their male counterparts, Tigres was victorious over their crosstown rivals by lifting the cup at their stadium. The two leg final was also historic because the second leg set a worldwide attendance record of 51,211 for a women’s club match. Tigres won the first leg, 2-0 at home, and finished 4-2 on aggregate after the 2-2 draw in the second leg.
Upcoming matches (All Times CT):
Tuesday, May 8:
1:45 p.m. - [Premier League] Swansea vs. Southampton (NBC Sports)
2 p.m. - [Coupe de France final] Les Herbiers vs. Paris Saint-Germain (beIN Sports)
Wednesday, May 9:
1 p.m. - [La Liga] FC Barcelona vs. Villarreal (beIN Sports)
1:45 p.m. - [Premier League] Chelsea vs. Huddersfield (NBC Sports)
2 p.m. - [Coppa Italia final] Juventus vs. A.C. Milan (GolTV)
3 p.m. - [La Liga] Sevilla vs. Real Madrid (beIN Sports)
6:30 p.m. - [MLS] Toronto FC vs. Seattle Sounders FC (FS1)
7 p.m. - [NWSL] Houston Dash vs. Portland Thorns (go90/NWSLsoccer.com)
Thursday, May 10:
1:45 p.m. - [Premier League] West Ham vs. Manchester United (NBC Sports)
7:30 p.m. - [Liga MX Playoffs] Santos Laguna vs. Club America (Univision Deportes)
9:30 p.m. - [Liga MX Playoffs] Tijuana vs. Toluca (Univision Deportes)
Friday, May 11:
9:30 p.m. - [MLS] Vancouver Whitecaps FC vs. Houston Dynamo (KUBE 57)
Saturday, May 12:
11:30 a.m. - [La Liga] Real Madrid vs. Celta (beIN Sports)
2:30 p.m. - [MLS] FC Dallas vs. LA Galaxy (Univision/Twitter)
7 p.m. - [NWSL] Chicago Red Stars vs. Houston Dash (go90/NWSLsoccer.com)
Sunday, May 13:
9 a.m. - [Premier League] All Premier League matches of the final day of the season will air simultaneously across the NBC family of networks (NBC, NBCSN, CNBC, Telemundo, Universo, USA, Bravo, E!, MSNBC, SyFy, Oxygen, Olympic Channel)
1:45 p.m. - [Serie A] Roma vs. Juventus (beIN Sports)
1:45 p.m. - [La Liga] Levante vs. FC Barcelona (beIN Sports Español)
12 p.m. - [Liga MX Playoffs] Toluca vs. Tijuana (Univision Deportes)
3 p.m. - [MLS] Portland Timbers vs. Seattle Sounders FC (ESPN)
5 p.m. - [MLS] Orlando City SC vs. Atlanta United (FS1)
7 p.m. - [Liga MX Playoffs] Club America vs. Santos Laguna (Univision Deportes)
7:30 p.m. - [MLS] LAFC vs. New York City FC (FS1)